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The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ
μίαν, ἁγίαν, καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν one, holy, universal and apostolic congregation
— "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" —
Ephesians 4:5.
 
During the late 20th century the ordination of women aroused contention in some Church circles, and in doing so exposed a common confusion concerning the nature of Church leadership and its authority.
 
This
lack of understanding in turn exposed of a far deeper and more profound confusion –
a lack of understanding concerning the nature of the Christian Church itself!
 
Historically,
in this regard: at the one end of the spectrum,
  • episcopal churches (such as the Orthodox and Roman Catholic) believe that the essence of the Church lies in its bishops, to whom the Holy Spirit was given through so-called 'apostolic succession'.
 
And
at the other extreme,
  • some Protestant groups use the idea of the 'priesthood of all believers' to reduce the Christian Church in effect to not much more than a voluntary democratic association of Christians who worship together, defined by mission statements and doctrinal definitions, and which hires a pastoral chaplain for its needs.
 
Between
these two extremes, some have tried to adopt a moderate position, seeing the Church as a communion of communions under bishops by teaching 'apostolic succession' without papal primacy (such as the Anglican communion).
 
So – What is the Christian Church?  
A worship building? No!
A religious organisation? No!
A network of congregations? No!
 The people who meet for a worship experience and encouraging sermon in a friendly atmosphere? NO! 
The answer
to this must begin with Jesus Himself, but we must not assume that His Church was simply a collection of His disciples, for both John the Baptist and the Pharisees also had their groups of disciples and these could in no way be considered a churches in any form.
 
Nor
was the Lord's Church an association centred on a structure of ministry such as twelve apostles, for the apostles themselves were simply the senior group of those in full-time training by Christ to become 'fishers of men' in the continuance of His ministry.
 
• 
Even the New Testament term used for 'church' is a secular Hellenistic Greek term 'ecclesia' (ἐκκλησία) for a citizen town-meeting, which does not in any way express the identifying characteristics of Christ's church as defined in our New Testament. Our New Testament gives this word, as Jesus used the concept, a meaning that became unique to His followers, to His community, alone.
 
• 
Our modern English word 'church' is derived from the late Greek word 'kyriakon', arising from the Greek neuter of 'kyriakos' ('kyrios' meaning lord/master) and so meaning "of the lord" or belonging to the Lord, so this should always be central to our understanding of Christ's church. This Greek term (κυριακός/kyriakos) actually only occurs twice in the whole Bible –
(1) 
in 1 Cor.11:20 "the Lord's supper"; and
(2)
in Rev.1:10 "the Lord's day" (the first day of the week on which He rose from the dead) on which the early Christians thereafter regularly came together (1 Cor.16:2).
Some schismatics such as the Seventhday Adventist movement have tried to link the English word 'church' to an Anglo-saxon goddess but it predates this.
• 
So, let's take a closer look at the circumstance within which Jesus developed His group of followers as His church.
 
Christ the Beginning  
• 
Jesus' preaching essentially continued the special message of John the Baptist, as also Christ's disciples did in their ministry prior to His crucifixion (Mat.3:2; 4:17; 10:7). This was the announcement of the nearness, the 'eggus' (ἐγγύς) or imminence, of the Kingdom of God: an imminence of its presence which was later made visible on Christ's mount of transfiguration (Mat.16:28-17:3).
 
• 
This hidden nearness or immediacy of the future kingdom of God in Christ's bodily presence (as was revealed to the three on that Mount) has often been assumed to be because of who Jesus was: His deity, or the personification of the kingdom in the king. But this is not what Jesus taught!
 
• 
Jesus taught instead that, for those that had an ear to hear, that the nearness or hidden presence of the kingdom of God began only at His baptism by John the Baptist in the river Jordan.
 
  For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied UNTIL John
FROM the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force
.”
Matthew 11:13, 12.
• 
Christ's baptism marked this turning point: not the Jordan water, but the unique anointing of the Holy Spirit Himself in His upon Jesus as the sinless Christ of God. It is for this reason that the Spirit appeared physically as a 'dove' to Jesus and John, echoing the historical new beginning represented by the dove to Noah after the 'baptism' of the great Flood.
 
• 
In His eternal deity, Jesus the preincarnate Son of God, needed no anointing of the Spirit! But, in the reality of His incarnation His humanity needed the gift of the Holy Spirit to fulfil His mission. This unique and never-before-existing relationship of the Holy Spirit to the humanity of Jesus, from after His baptism by John, is the critical essence of the kingdom-presence, the present rule or authority of God in Christ in this world.
 
• 
It is Christ's human relationship to the Holy Spirit which constituted the presence of the kingdom of God during His ministry. For this reason Jesus explained –
 
  "...IF it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, THEN the kingdom of God has come upon you." Matthew 12:28
• 
This same relationship of Christ to the Spirit continues now in all Christ's disciples as a result of His gift of the Spirit at Pentecost to His people. This relationship of the Spirit to God's people constitutes the continuing hidden presence of Christ's kingdom in our world today, which will be made physically visible in His second coming at the resurrection.
 
•  Jesus stressed that it was a greater advantage to His disciples that He leave them than that He stay – for one reason.  
  "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.
But if I go, I will send Him to you."
John 16:7.
• 
This is more than the leadership of Jesus over the disciples being replaced by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. That would be compensatory but not an advantage.
 
•  The effect of His disciples receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is described by Jesus as –  
  "And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning SIN and RIGHTEOUSNESS and JUDGMENT:
• concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;
• concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer;
• concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."
John 16:8-11.
• 
This three-fold description is the vital essence of the ministry of Christ's Church in the world because it has received the Spirit. This relationship of the Holy Spirit is the actual continuity of the Christian church.
 
• 
Historically. Christendom has argued for its continuity through relationship structure in the leadership of the organised church, that is so-called 'apostolic succession'. In countering this the Reformed movement in Christianity has taught that Church continuity lies in true doctrine, a doctrine of Biblical essentials to the Faith. But definitions of Church dogma is no less subject to human manipulation and influence than is the organisation of 'apostolic-succession through a historical line of bishops.
 
• 
If the Church is what began in Christ, its continuity can be nothing less than the essence of what began in Jesus. That is – His human relationship to the Holy Spirit which began at the beginning of His ministry and is continued today in His people across the world.
Why No Miracles?
The Kingdom in His Church  
• 
This kingdom is God's rule on earth. Thus, doing the will of God, God's way, is the essence of His kingdom. This is echoed in the Lord's Prayer – "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth AS it is in Heaven".
 
For
this reason Jesus publicly said –
"Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?"
And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Here are My mother and My brothers!
For WHOEVER does the will of My Father in heaven IS My brother and sister and mother
."
Matthew 12:48-50
• 
The Holy Spirit is given specifically to enable the doing of God's desire. This was the united understanding of the leaders of the Church when they still lived in the white-heat of the Pentecost event –
"... the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him."
Acts 5:32
• 
For this reason the present action of the Holy Spirit is described as the – "powers of the age to come" (Heb.6:5), that is – of the future kingdom come.
 
• 
The moral character of this kingdom is the moral character of God.
"God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Romans 5:5
• 
The Holy Spirit is our Enabler so that Christ's teaching on the will of God may be completely fulfilled in His church, to be the presence of the kingdom in this present generation – just as Jesus Himself was.
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matt.5:44-45)
Jesus also taught concerning loving God and loving our neighbour that –
"On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Mat.22:40)
that is – the fulfillment of every command of the Old Testament; everything that God has ever said.
 
• 
This is more than an internalising of God's rule or kingdom for ethical purposes. The kingdom is the representation of God in this world. It is the 'image of God', the image in which our first ancestor was made and which he functionally* lost; the image fulfilled in Christ's ministry and which must continue in His spiritual Body today.
*The judicial instruction of God after the Flood concerning the value of human life (Gen.9:6) indicates that this 'image-of-God' remains a factor in human identity even when non-functioning.
• 
God's authority is inherent in the presence of His kingdom, not in any organizational support-scaffolding around His people, and still less in the customs and traditions of their religious activities. It is the authority of Jesus by which He addressed the wind and the waves impeding His journey across the Sea of Galilee. It is the authority by which Saul of Tarsus addressed Elymas before the Roman governor of Cyprus and struck him with blindness.
• 
It is the authority that Jesus promised His people when He said –
"Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree,
but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' it will happen.
And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith
."
Matthew 21:21-22
• 
Against this background, it is essential that the personal relationships among God's people reflect the same intense loyalty that Jesus expressed in the quote above concerning His unity with His disciples, to the unavoidable hurt of His human family waiting outside. For this reason Heaven's authority is pledged for the restoration of personal relationships –
"Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven
[concerning correction].
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask
[to restore their relationship],
it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.
"
Matthew 18:18-19
• 
Christ's people, God's redeemed, are the singular most precious object of God's affection. As individuals their encrustation of carnality and their reciprocation of the world's behaviour may often hide and even deny the reality of a cleansed and renewed spirit within, yet the work of God remains. His love does not change.
 
  "NO ONE born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed [the new nature] ABIDES in him,
and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God."
1 John 3:9.
• 
God knew each one of them in His heart before the world was born. He apportioned to each an opportunity to enlarge trust toward Him and so to share in His good purpose for the whole of all creation.
 
  Its Perversion  
• 
With feel-good sentiment, some leaders in some Christian denominations, particularly Anglican/Episcopalian, have helped confuse the distinction between the Church and what the Bible calls 'the world'. For instance, it has been said that just as Jesus taught that the 'wheat' and 'tares' are mixed and only to be separated by God at the end, so the Church is a mixture which only God may separate.
 
 
This is not true! Jesus described the 'field' in which the 'wheat' and the 'tares' are mixed as 'the world' and not the Church. The kingdom of God draws a mixed multitude (the 'net' Matt.13:47-50), but is itself composed only of those who truly believe.
Matthew 13:38
 
Further, Paul's analogy of the Christian Church as the 'Body' of Christ is applied by some to the whole of humanity, completely ignoring the distinction which the Bible makes between the Church and the world.
 
 
Scriptures that contradict these perversions are simply relativised as culturally bound and therefore not to be applied directly in the same sense today.
 
• 
In much the same way, where Holy Scripture declares homosexual practice to be an abomination, equivalent to bestiality, in bringing the judgment of God, these same ecclesiastics relativise the command of God as no longer applicable and instead point to the love between David and Jonathan as possibly showing God's acceptance of homosexual practice.
Leviticus 18:22-25
• 
Of late, the rise of a form of Christianity which brands itself as Messianic Judaism/Christianity as though the Jewish roots of Christianity carry a special status of authentic character, denies the word of God which plainly declares that in Christ – "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are ALL ONE in Christ Jesus."
Galatians 3:28.
If we
love God, these positions which pervert the character of the Christian Church/Community are therefore intolerable –
 
 
"For it is TIME for judgment to BEGIN at the household of God;
and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
"
1 Peter 4:17
 
ONE CHURCH UNIVERSAL – REPRESENTED ONLY IN THE SPIRITUAL IDENTITY OF ITS LOCAL CONGREGATIONS
Unity One Church world-wide: there is no other – for the Spirit, who is its life, is One.
Authority 
In the Holy Spirit only, by all who have received Him, as Christ expressed to us in His teaching on the so-called 'procession' of the Holy Spirit (Jn.15:26). Therefore, Church authority can never be the exclusive domain of any order or rank of ministry.
See:
Ultimate Authority

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Church Ministry Structures Church Leadership Ordination of Women Our Mission & His Return
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